The biggest struggle of parenting for me thus far (my oldest son is almost 4) has hands down, without question, been potty training. I know a few fellow parents who would agree with me on this! But I have a found a secret to make the whole experience easier on everyone! Before I had this revelation I was feeling like a failure as a parent. Thanks goodness I learned this secret to help me through this tough time!
Background: My mom is a big proponent of pushing kids to achieve milestones as quickly as possible. She bought us a small training potty and encouraged us to use it with him when our son was about 18 months old. My parenting style is trying to find a balance of guiding and baby-led achievements, and he wasn’t showing signs of being ready to toilet train at this age, so we didn’t push. When my son was about 21 months old, he indicated he had to go to the bathroom for the first time, so we quickly took him to the bathroom and sat him on the potty and he went! Just a tiny bit, but it was there. I was SO excited. He wasn’t even two, and I was sure we were going to be out of diapers soon! I saw the future of potty training in that moment as a piece of cake, and convinced myself that we must be almost done on that journey.
Boy, was I WRONG. That didn’t happen again for a long, long time.
After talking with some other moms, I heard that boys tend to pick it up more slowly, and plenty are over 3 years old by the time they’re fully potty trained. We tried to encourage him use the potty by 2-1/2, but got a lot of push back. I learned that many children’s bladder muscles aren’t developed enough to hold urine for long periods of time until they’re 3 years old. I’ve heard horror stories of children getting UTIs in an attempt to hold their bladder as a result of potty training too quickly. A friend encouraged me, telling me if the child never initiates restroom trips and the only time they go is when an adult tells them to go, than the little one isn’t potty trained – the adult is! This made a lot of sense and made me feel better. By the time my son was 3, we decided we really needed to begin trying more seriously.
I’m the type of person who likes to research almost every decision I make; I was once dubbed the “Google queen”. That being said, I had done plenty of searching, “pinning”, and reading ideas from every resource I could find trying to learn how to potty train a child. I was constantly seeing articles entitled things like “How I Potty-trained my Child in 3 Days”, “My Child was Potty-trained by 18 months old”, and “The No-Cry Method of Potty-training”. Initially, all these stories gave me lots of hope! Quickly, I learned none of these methods would work for us, and honestly, felt like quite a failure. We tried sticker charts, rewards, no pants, pull up, no pull ups, sitting on the training potty all day, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, timers, schedules, and probably a half-dozen other things. All that came of it was frustration and tears – on both sides, mine and his. Until I figured out the secret that made it all happen!
I would like to take the time to point out that every child is different. So, the people who wrote those blog posts about having their child potty trained in just a couple of days happen to have a child who responded well to that system. I am keenly aware that all children have different learning styles and respond differently to every single method listed above.
I wrote this in an attempt to give hope to those who have children like mine. Those that are a bit stubborn, and tiny perfectionists. My son doesn’t like to do anything until he’s REALLY got it down. This was true of crawling and speaking. After barely a wiggle, he one day suddenly started full on crawling across the living room. And after speaking just a few words and then remaining silent for nearly a year, he suddenly started talking up a storm and now has a vocabulary quite ahead of his age. Looking back on the times before he spoke or used the toilet regularly I was constantly stressed and frustrated. Because it took us FOR-EV-ER (please read that in the voice of Squints from The Sandlot!) to get it down. If your son is anything like mine I hope this secret I’m about to share gives you peace.
Here’s the BIG secret!
You’ve got to wait until they’re ready.
For us, and many others I’ve talked to, it was like a switch suddenly went off in his head one day. Out of nowhere he ran to the toilet and went poopy on the potty and never looked back. He was ready to do the thing we’d been trying to get him to do for months, years even, and he did it. The stickers were a waste. The hot wheel cars were a wash. It didn’t matter if he was wearing pull ups or big boy undies. All that mattered is he was finally ready. It was truly the best day “parenting” day I’ve had – other than the say I became one.
You know your child best and what will work well for them. If your child responds well to a timer (or any other method) and you guys are in a good routine before they’re two – awesome! Congrats! But if your child is over 3 and you feel deflated, frustrated, like a terrible parent, and utterly defeated – I’ve been there. And it WILL be ok. Children develop at different rates.
I write this in hopes that I am reaching a parent of a child like mine. A strong-willed, bright, amazing child, who just so happens to be struggling with potty training. I wish for you to spend this time while they’re little enjoying them and teaching them many more important skills rather than focusing as much time and energy on a futile effort. No matter what I did, my son was not going to go until he was ready. Because trust me, if something else would have worked, I tried it! I wish I wouldn’t have spent so much time yelling and being angry. I wish the same for you, and to have no regrets.
Good luck on your potty training journey! Try not to stress too much, it will happen – when your little one is ready!